Monday, January 7, 2008

Calming Music?

Profgrrrrl asked for some recommendations of calming music.

My all-time favorite is "If I Were a Bell" as performed by Miles Davis on the "Relaxin" album. (The 20-bit remastered version released by Prestige is a fantastic recording.) It exists on YouTube with a bizarre mix of photos of Davis and the musical "Guys and Dolls" that the song comes from.

The video-maker's choice of still photos is as strange as the section around 4:30, the piano in duet with a walking bass line, is sublime.

Other Davis albums from that era, such as "Kind of Blue" and "Birth of the Cool", are also worth a try.

While looking at what else might be on YouTube, I found two versions of "Take Five" by the Dave Brubeck quartet (from the album "Time Out"). Every piece on the album has a different time signature. This one, in 5/4 time, is fantastic but neither of these live performances is the same as the one on the album.

The drum solo in this first one is intense, while the second one (below) is fairly mellow in comparison.

[Addendum: The album version is unlike either of these in that it does not have a drum solo at all. Instead, there is a duet of sorts between drum and piano. The piano repeats the theme ad nauseum while the drummer works sparingly around it. A classic example of jazz where the silence between the notes is as significant as the notes themselves.]

Just for grins, you might contrast that very corporate looking group from 1961 to another from that same year, one where the sax gets a more serious workout: John Coltrane performing "My Favorite Things". This live version is (IMHO) quite inferior to the original recording in several respects. (The recording of the flute is awful, plus Eric Dolphy on flute is no Coltrane. The album version adds about another 3 minutes to the piece and does not have Dolphy in the band. It is all Coltrane, plus McCoy Tyner.) Anyway, the piece goes from mellow to extremely (extremely) complex and back again in its full form. The first and last minutes might mix into what PG is looking for.

That song is also one of my all-time favorite recordings, but does not fall in the realm of calming music! It does, however, have that effect for me. Having heard it many times, the complexity is familiar and expected ... and all of it still has Julie Andrews singing in the background of my mind.

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